For Connie Fuentes, Karen Franklin and Karen Williams, service and volunteerism go hand-in-hand.
For nearly three decades, Connie Fuentes has let her passion for public service guide her volunteerism in the community.
“I have a serving heart,” said Fuentes, a supervisor for the Solid Waste Department’s Northeast Service Center.
And it’s her dedication to public service and volunteerism that earned her a Bravo award at the May 3 ceremony.
“She got her start when she was in high school when she did a project on how to clean up the city,” said Council Member Karla Cisneros. “It inspired her to seek out a career in what she’s doing now.”
Best known for her advocacy of a clean city, she spends her days connecting residents and small business owners with essential solid waste removal services. But Fuentes’ interaction with residents doesn’t end when she clocks out for the day.
“She attends civic association meetings, assists with Spanish-speaking media interviews and knocks on residents doors to provide guidance about correct trash placement,” said Irma Reyes, a public information officer for Solid Waste.
Coinciding with her public service career, Fuentes has spent 26 years volunteering at Sagemeont Church in southeast Houston, transporting parishioners to and from service, helping in the children’s ministry, and serving special needs children in the Special Friends Bible Study Program.
“I enjoy serving the citizens of Houston,” Fuentes said.
Youth advocate paves path of success for students
Since 1991, Karen Franklin has helped mentor and lead more than 50,000 youth. And she’s done it through the World Youth Foundation, a nonprofit organization that mentors and equips low-income youth with life, leadership, and workforce skills.
“For myself, its truly an amazing honor to follow in the footsteps of our leaders,” said Franklin, a special projects coordinator in the Housing and Community Development Department.
Franklin, who founded the World Youth Foundation organization and serves as its chief executive officer, received a Bravo award for going above and beyond in her service and community volunteerism.
“The World Youth organization helped me understand times can be difficult,” said Victor Lewis, a 2015 WYF Youth Ambassador, whose father passed away when he was 16-years-old.
“Through the organization, I was able to understand my purpose,” Lewis said. “They introduced me to internships with congressmen, congresswomen, and the city of Houston.”
And Franklins’ day-to-day service for the city helps to ensure compliance of the city’s Pay or Play Program and contract compliance for the city’s Minority, Women, and Small Business Enterprise Program.
“At work, Karen strives for efficiency while conducting her duties,” said Dean Torreros-Carter, a division manger in the Housing Department. “She contributes her time and life to those in need and those around her.”
Creating foundations for brighter futures
Like her fellow Bravo award winners, Karen Williams serves her community in many ways.
“I try to impact somebody else’s life in a positive way,” said Williams, an assistant director of the Municipal Courts Department’s administration services division. “Whether it’s speaking to a class, mentoring a student, or donating something.”
Williams service and dedication to her community earned her a Bravo award. Her passion for service extends to many community groups in need.
Since 2004, Williams has donated $12,000 in scholarships to help local youth reach their educational goals. But her volunteerism doesn’t end there. Williams helps to organize Project Cradle, an annual education and wellness event for unwed pregnant teens.
“Had it not been for Ms. Williams using her time, talent and resources, an event of this magnitude would not have been possible,” said Gwendoly Goins, a communications officer and government liaison for Municipal Courts. “Each participant received a large bag of donations that included formula, diapers, bottles, clothes and other infant necessities.”
“I’ve always had a personable feeling if I can do something to make a station better, I should do it,” Williams said.
Williams also teaches financial literacy classes, serves as the Women’s Wednesday Night Ministry Instructor at New Light Church, and brings her uplifting spirit to the city, where she has earned praise from her coworkers.
“Ms. Williams definitely manages to ensure the needs of her staff are met,” said Goins. “Whether its leadership development, employee moral, or just having the tools necessary to do the job.”
As president of the Houston Chapter of the Gamma Phi Sigma sorority, she leads annual efforts to address community needs.
“A lot of time we think it’s not going to be enough, it’s too small and the donation or time doesn't matter, but it does,” Williams said. “The smallest rocks still have a ripple effect.”